Saturday, December 1, 2012

Eki Chronicles NEW and IMPROVED!

Hey guys, the Eki Chronicles just got a major shot of adrenaline. My blog has now moved. You can check me out here:

If you have my blog linked on your own blog I'd greatly appreciate you taking a minute to adjust it to reflect my new site. Also, I'd love it if you subscribed to my blog which will now be contained within the new site. You can either click "read blog" or the Eki Chronicles tab on the top of the page.

I hope you like the new site and the new look.

Thank you to Quinn Williams for all his hard work. The website exceeded all expectations I had. And, hey if you want a great work out, check out Quinn's gym in Superior, Wi - Kinetic Fitness.

Don't be afraid to leave a comment to let me know what you think of the new site.



Friday, November 9, 2012

Racing in the Heat, Training in the Cold

Racing at home in Duluth, MN 2011
As I once again commence with training in the dark I can't help but get lost in memories of racing on hot summer days. The heat that seemed to settle on your back like an electric blanket on already sweltering body. I think back to cursing the sun for a brief time before remember what real cold feels like. I'll take the heat any day!

Training in last year's winter that never was.
Training season in northern Minnesota means gettin' tough. It's about training the mind just as much as it is about training the body. You tell yourself time and time again, "I can take it, I can take it", while the feeling slips from your feet and hands. "It'll all be worth it in the end ... I hope", I'd think while I performed the cost/benefit analysis in my mind.

So, as you head out the door with your last act being a glance at the temperature, think about those warm summer race days. Oh, and don't forget to grab a little nip of the "warm stuff" to share with your training buddies when you take that first break 4 hours later.

Hopefully I'll see you on the trail...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'd do it all over again...If I could


It's that time of year when things settle down, the traveling subsides, the racing goes on hold, and the real training begins. It's also that time of year when I spend a lot of time thinking about all that I've experienced. There were definitely moments on the bike when I felt untouchable and times when I felt I was doomed. Here's a quick look at my year, from my backyard, to Kansas, to Colorado, and everywhere in between.

Pumped about an 8th place finish at the gravel classic,
Ragnarok 105.

Shelled, but happy with a 3rd place at the Northern
Kettles 100 miler.
The Chequamegon 100 didn't end well for me. I got LOST,
but I still had a great time. I'll be back to redeem myself.

 The flood nearly broke Duluth's spirit, but not quite.

 Beautiful Kansas. I cruised with the leaders early on in the Dirty
Kanza 200, but 5 flats left me decimated emotionally and
physically. With nothing left I decided to race the SUN, everything
changed after that.

   Then, I got two articles published on Dirt
about the Dirty Kanza, That was cool.

I even got interviewed on Mountain Bike Radio - TWICE!

It's not always about the bike.
Amy and I hangin' after Duluth's Grandma's
Marathon. Just one of the many 1/2 marathons Amy did in 2012.

3rd place at the 24 Hours of 9 Mile (12 hour solo) left me filthy,
but happy.

The Vapor Trail, the grand daddy of my year.
The memories will be with me forever.

Back home on the shores of Lake Superior.
Right where I belong.

Where did the time go?
My Spearfish and the DBD patch kept me going
all year.
So there it is, a flashback of 2012. There were many events and great rides that weren't represented here, they're tucked away in the recesses of my memories. I'll keep them for myself...for now. Hope your year left you feeling the same way mine did.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Thanks for the Coffee

3 of Duluth's 4 DBD'ers fatbike down Minnesota's North Shore
Trail. (Eki, Buff (left), and Farrow)

5:50 a.m. I jolted awake to the sound of my watch alarm telling me it was time to go. Finally, I'd be out of the house and back on my bike, but this time I'd be on my Mukluk and back into the arms of the DBD. It's funny, cause it seems the more the DBD'ers go off in search of adventure, the less time they spend together.

"I was told there'd be coffee", were the first words I said to Farrow after months of not seeing him. You see some early week planning for this ride involved me riding across town on a cold, dark, morning for a nice cup of coffee at Charlie's house before we would embark on the ride itself. Well, ride across town I did and my hands froze, which was an amature move on my part, as I wore some seriously light weight gloves. Anxious for that "cup of coffee" I scampered up the steps of the Farrow estate, my cycling shoes skating around the frosty surface of his deck, when I heard his greeting, "Eki, I've got bad news...No Coffee". The plan was already falling apart. No worries, it could have been worse I figured. Suddenly, Charlie determined to not be beaten by the lack of coffee, made another announcement, "I do have this!" He produced a small tea bag looking thing (it was a small bag of coffee), swinging it in front of my face with a devilish grin on his face, "It's coffee!". I agreed to drink the substance after an addition of some almond milk, which came after some hesitation from me. Turns out the coffee was outstanding and jump started my frozen being. Soon, we were ready to ride.

We jumped on our machines, headed for the country and the North Shore Trail. You see good ole Buff was already out there doin' it and had been for hours, that's just the way he is. Our plan was simple ride the trail North until we saw our partner coming toward us, and then we'd turn to ride with with him back to Duluth. It was to be an epic day.

It didn't seem long before we were on the trail plowing through the wet, soft surface, regaling each other with stories of past triumphs when "it" happened. Farrow's ongoing battle with his gear reared it's ugly head. His chain SNAPPED! There we were somewhere North of Duluth in the middle of the wilderness with his machine maimed. He worked on the chain while I continued on with stories and kept an eye to the northern portion of the trail. Where was "Big Buff"? Then, over the rise the almighty one himself rode with ease as he shook his head either in disbelief or was he seeing something all too familiar, the site of Charlie working on his bike. Buff had arrived. It struck me that in order to put all three of us together on the face of this Earth, it must be done in the far reaches of the woods.

Farrow fixes the machine.

Soon we were riding again and it felt right. Buff hurt our legs as he climbed effortlessly despite the 2 plus hours he had on us thus far. The day began to warm as the fog cleared and the sun found it's way to our chilled bodies. The fat tires were a perfect fit for the soft, bumpy terrain. The ride would go down as one of the "good ones". There's no one else I'd rather spin 6 hours of trail time with that these two guys.

A short break off the trail as we by-pass a swamp.

As I spun home alone after splitting off from Buff I reviewed the day from start to finish. It occurred to me that at the start of the day while I mocked Charlie for not having his gear ready to go the night before, I never thanked him for that cup of coffee.

So, with the world watching I say, "Hondo, thanks for that cup of coffee. It was one of the best cups I've ever had."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Resting is Boring

I like sleeping, but this is getting ridiculous.

O.k., I'm sticking with the cat theme here for one more post.

As some of you may have gathered from my last entry I've been a bit tired from what some may describe as too much riding. Is that even possible?

So, here I sit in a forced state of "non-riding". Sure, I do my little commute back and forth to work, but really it's so short that it's like heading to the fridge for another beer. I think I'm ready to get back at it as I find myself getting stir crazy, even missing the routine. I never thought I'd say this (just ask my wife), but I actually think I'm getting tired of laying around. My clothes are getting tight, pizza is starting to seem...uh, not that great anymore, and I am really getting into The Voice.  Clearly, it's time to start riding again.

The Mukluk will be dusted off this weekend as I head out into the woods, just to see if I remember how to do it. Hopefully I haven't forgotten.

More to come....


Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm Wiped OUT!

Is it normal to feel this way?

The season is over! Now I look forward to training. I've got a brand new plan for the upcoming year...shhhh. I hope that it will break me through the ceiling I've been fighting against for the past two years. Let's face it, I want to ride like a 'Big Boy'.

Now, for how I'm feeling lately. The picture above is me at work. I'm so tired constantly I wonder if something is wrong. I realize that a season of ultra endurance races can take a bite out of a guy. I also didn't anticipate the Vapor Trail absolutely crushing my body, maybe I'm still reeling from it, who knows.

I've been riding minimally lately. We're talking really short commutes to work with an occasional weekend mt. bike ride. Yet, my legs ache, my body is sore in the morning, and all I want to do is sleep.

Hopefully I'll bounce out of this funk and see you out on the sno mo trails.

In the meantime, my ringer is getting turned off and I'll be in bed. Good Night.


Monday, October 1, 2012

"Heck of the North" Recap: A letter to the DBD

Men of the DBD,

As I sit here I have a deep ache coursing through my legs. I may have pushed my tired, aging body too far. I went into the Heck with a clear notion that I may slip back into the pack. But, I vowed to take a crack at glory for as long as I was able. I rode comfortably in the lead group of what seemed like half of the field to the first off road section. Once at this section the sharp end of the race nailed it with a fury that I could not match. I couldn't believe how hard they were crushing the section. Needless to say, I was spit out the back, left to watch them round the corner that was always just ahead of me.

I lost a bottle in the first off road and then spent hours worrying about how I would eventually run out of water. In the mean time, myself, Shawn Gort, and Dan Glisczinsk (both of Duluth) joined into a fast moving rotation in an effort to close down the minute and a half gap the lead group had put on us. We worked well together taking no more than what seemed to be 15 second pulls. I could see that we were reeling the lead group back in, but it was coming at a cost. Approximately 40 minutes of hard pull after hard pull and we had them. I launched a final surge on Pequam Lakes Rd. to make the final bridge to them. We had made it! The triumph of making it back to the men who rode comfortably and securely in each other's draft was short lived as we then entered the Brimson Trail with very little time to recover from the "bridge up". Again the pace went to the moon and I found myself slipping back as I just couldn't match the effort.

I hit the sharp U-turn on the gravel after the Brimson Trail section only to have my front wheel wash out. I quick stab of my right foot to the road sent my calf into a golf ball size cramp. I watched my only chance at a re-connect (Scott Hippen) ride away from me while I tried to get the muscle to release. I was now on my own.

In an effort to save some semblance of honor I attempted to ratchet up the pace in the hopes that maybe I would catch a straggler who had fallen of the lead pack. It was not to be. The light switch that operates power in my legs had been turned off. Maybe it was the 20,000 feet of climbing a few weeks back in Colorado. Maybe it was the long hard season of 10 plus endurance races. Maybe it was just that I couldn't keep up.

I proceeded to ride the next 50 miles alone. I kept a steady pace as I crushed internal organs over miles of wash board. I tried to reflect on my year and tell myself that I'd done well and that they all can't be GREAT.

The confusion I had with the down power pole and the re-route was disheartening. I chose to spin in easy from that point on telling myself that it was a beautiful day and a beautiful ride. It was.

Thanks Jeremy, as always...spectacular!

Now I rest.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Where Eagles Fly: The Vapor Trail 125 (Sneak Peak)

The Rockies in all their splendor.
My helmet light swept back and forth across the night sky as if it were a search light hunting for enemy planes. It wasn't planes I was searching for, I was seeking some sense of what it was I was witnessing or better yet what it was I was a part of. I stood alone atop the Great Divide; my only companions were a crescent moon and billions of stars so close that I wanted to reach up to them, just to see how they felt. Five hours into the 2012 Vapor Trail is when I stopped riding and realized that I was not in control and that I really never would be for the remainder of the adventure. The sky, the mountains, and the terrain would be calling the shots, not me. It came clear to me that throughout the next 15 hours my surroundings would grant me triumph as well as defeat over and over again.

Stay tuned to the Salsa Cycles site for more, coming soon...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vapor Trail is HERE!

I am in my staging city of Omaha, NE staying with my sister and brother-in-law. I'm working through last minute tweaks to gear and trying to relax.

In my last post I put up a link where I could be tracked through the event that starts this Sat. at 10:00 p.m. and runs through late afternoon Sunday. Well, in the 11th hour the directors of the Vapor hooked in with Trackleaders. So, if you're interested in tracking me through the event in "real time" among the other competitors you can do so here:

I feel good about things and I can wait to get to the mountains.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Going To New Heights In Colorado

Note: The actual start date and time of
this year's Vapor is Sept. 8th @ 10 PM.

Last spring I was unable to attend my beloved Trans Iowa. It was for a good reason, I was getting a new brother-in-law and he's a super good guy. So, really I had no reason to feel bad, but still I knew I'd find a way to listen in on the race even if it was during the wedding reception. I hid out in the coat room listening to Guitar Ted (race director) tell how the race was unfolding in "real time". I needed to know how my boys, Farrow and Kershaw were doing. No matter what happened I knew they'd make me proud. My heart soared as I'd hear their names in the reports. I wondered where I would have been had I been in the fight.

In an attempt to come to terms with "sitting this one out" I began to think about something bigger or at least something as big, but maybe different. I needed to find a race that would nibble away at my core, like the Trans Iowa did when I first decided to sign up long ago. I recall not wanting to tell anyone about being on the roster for I feared that somehow I would upset the being that was the race. It was as if I had not yet earned the right to talk about my involvement with something that big. I needed a new race now that would get me nervous.

I'd been eye balling a little event out in Colorado for a couple of years called the Vapor Trail 125. The pictures were spectacular, the stories were mind bending, but it was all beyond my scope and skill set.  I enjoyed watching from Minnesota. Yet, I couldn't stop thinking about that race and what it would be like to ride in those mountains. My "long" commutes to work afforded me 3 hours a day to think about the challenge, all from the saddle of my bike. As I rode to work in the dark with a below zero windchill in my face I thought, "if you can do can do that!"

I would step off that cliff and make contact with Tom Purvis, the race director. I knew that once I was in correspondence with him I would not turn back. The next thing I knew I was putting together a race resume for him in an effort to convince him and myself that I could do this thing. When I looked over that final list of bicycling accomplishments before sealing the envelope I paused and thought, "You know what, you can do this thing".

Tom and I seemed to hit it off immediately over email. I was in, I made the roster! Now, my thinking switched from "what if?" to "when you..." I began the always exciting process of choosing gear. What bike would work best? How will I carry all the clothing that I'll need? Is there any way I can stave off the effects of the altitude on my flat lander body? Tire choice? The questions went on and on. I diligently researched each and everyone of them. I even went right to the source and received an excellent description of the race from Tom himself. I made contact with my sponsors in an effort to ensure all that I could control would be controlled. Salsa Cycles and Schwalbe Tires were instrumental in making sure I will be the best that I can be. Thank you Mike Riemer (who immediately asked what I would need to be successful) and Jeff Clarkson (who plans to overnight a set of tires to me in Omaha Nebraska two days before the race - awesome!).

Slowly things are coming together and I'm thinking about things like ZipLock bags that I'll need to store small items. In other words, I'm down to the smallest of details. Pretty soon the planning will be done and it will just be the riding that's left. I know how to pedal my bike and I know how to push it - I should be good to go...right?

I leave Duluth to chase another dream mid week, next. I can't wait to see the mountains in a personal kind of way as I climb a total of 20,000 feet by bike and foot. I have no idea what the race has in store for this boy from northern Minnesota, but I'm anxious to find out.

You can track me through the race via my Spot Tracker. The 'Vapor' starts on Sept. 8th at 10:00 p.m. I will be finishing sometime in the afternoon of Sept. 9th.

Wish me luck as I chase after one more dream. See you on the other side.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fat Bikin' on the Salsa Beargrease

In order to maintain optimal fitness one must often "keep the body guessing" by switching up exercise routines. Well, as the dog days of summer come the mind begins to yearn for something more than endless gravel and twisty single track. Enter the Salsa Beargrease.

A sudden Facebook message from Salsa friend John Gaddo included a request to "hook up" as he would be in Duluth for a Salsa demo. John wanted to ride. As luck would have it I had a light day at work and some flexibility to accommodate him. We talked on the phone and I instinctively started to talk to him about sweet single track near my house. He politely interrupted me and asked if I'd seen the Beargrease yet. "Uhh...only in pictures", was my response. He went on to ask about possible beach riding in the area. I got excited, this was just what I needed. A plan was hatched and he had a Beargrease for me to ride.

We met on Duluth's Park Point, made some quick adjustments to the bikes and we were off. Immediately, I felt the bike's aggressive stance, but I honestly could not get over how light it was. Seriously, this thing comes in at the weight of a full suspension XC bike (actually lighter than most). I felt right at home on the rig. I recall telling John that I felt like I was riding a hard tail race bike that just happen to have really wide tires. I could start to talk about head tube angles and geometry specs, but I'd be making it all up. Truth be told I don't really understand all that stuff, that's why when I'm hanging out with my Salsa friends like Pete, Joe, Sean, and Tim I do a lot of nodding, smiling, and profuse amounts of agreeing. I guess I "feel" bikes, I don't always know what I'm feeling, but I know if I like it or not and I liked this.

I met John last year in Spearfish, SD and we hit it off right away. We agreed to get in touch whenever we were near each other's home as bike riders often do. This was a good thing, because John is the type of guy you can hop on a bike with and find yourself riding all day. Twenty minutes into our casual ride down the beach I wished it could have been all day. We laughed as John timed the waves in an effort to get around logs and I mistimed them soaking my feet. I wondered if he questioned my sponsorship with Salsa as I dabbed over and over again in the loose sand while he cleaned the same sections without breaking conversation. I could see that John has spent a fair amount of time on a bicycle.

We stopped at the end of the "point" for our version of a photo shoot, secretly hoping Miker would use one of our shots on the Salsa site. Once John disclosed that he wasn't as good of a photographer as Mike Riemer or Jason Boucher I admitted that my photog skills consist of pushing the button on the camera constantly and hoping that I get lucky.

I told John that if we had all day I would be sure to send him home with a permanent smile on his face, but we only had about an hour and a half. Thing is, when I jumped back on my Warbird, shook his hand and rode away we were both smiling.

Thanks John, it was a great day on a great bike!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Prepping for Vapor Trail, Self Loathing, and Sasquatch

Somewhere north of Duluth, Mn
Maybe I'm on to something here. Completing the always difficult Sasquatch Loop each season feels like a good thing, not while I'm doing it, but when I'm done. I've done the infamous loop in all seasons now and to be honest, some of them have gone better than others. Obviously, the worst was the very first time I did it in the winter and it took me nearly 12 hours to complete as I battled snow squall after snow squall. I was certain the "summer tour" would be a breeze. I was wrong, and the word "breeze" would come to be a central theme on the day.

In order to avoid serious  alone time I sent out about 15 invites for the ride, but previous commitments left me with no takers. Fine! Riding alone can be good practice in keeping the demons down. As it turns out, I never really was alone, the demons were with me the whole time. Coming into the ride with 12 fairly intense hours on my legs may not have been a good idea, but one cannot always wait for everything to feel "fresh" before going on a long ride. Not to mention the Vapor Trail 125 is coming fast and I'm on the roster! I need some solid training weeks and I need them now. The Vapor is arguably one of the most difficult mountain bike races in the country and in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a little nervous.
Just a taste of gravel.
5:00 a.m. "What's that noise? It's the alarm! Really? Am I going to do this? Just shut up and do it! Man, my lower back hurts from diving for that softball at work the other day. It'll loosen up." Once out on the ride I was taking note of the cold temps, realizing that summer was slipping away. I said "Hi" to all the little animals and spun easy telling myself that my legs would warm up soon, then I would kick up the pace a bit. I started to wonder if it was the cooler temperatures as 3 hours into the ride I still felt pretty flat, but the good news was that I was pushing into a headwind early which would certainly mean that I'd reap Mother Nature's rewards later as the loop started me on my way home down the shore of Lake Superior. It was then that I'd make up for these slower miles and I was sure my legs would be under me by then.

I slogged my way over the "crossing", the most northerly portion of the course. This portion of the route crosses over the Laurentian Divide and eventually shows you Minnesota's Sawtooth Mountains. You can see a glimpse of the Sawtooths in the image above. They're not Colorado mountains, but they're ours.

Signs for Beaver Bay, Minnesota let me know that soon I'd be on the final leg and by this time it was clear that my legs weren't going to come around, but maybe the wind would. After hanging a right hander into Beaver Bay I immediately checked the flags for their direction. "NO!" They were pointing right at me and snapping hard. "How could this be? Is it some kind of conspiracy against me?" There was no other way to deal with it other than to just deal with it. I nosed into the wind and started grinding out the 51 miles to Duluth. Soon the word "Shelled" began to float around in my mind. Maybe it's because I was by myself I wondered or maybe it was the hard early week hours or maybe it's just a freakin' hard loop.

There was one goal that was met on the day that I'm proud of though. It was this: I NEVER STOPPED ONCE! The only time my wheels stopped moving was when I stopped in my driveway. I rode 144 miles, 8 hours and 38 minutes without stopping. And, YES all nature breaks were taken on the FLY. That's another blog article.

A recovery drink, short nap, some pizza and Amy and I were over to my parents house to relax with my sister and bro-in-law who are up from Omaha. It was a good ending to a hard day. A quote from my Mom, "You don't even look that tired". If she only knew, if she only knew...

P.S. The Warbird is a GREAT ALL DAY bike!

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Dude, You're Killing It! Keep it Up": Wausau 12 Hour Solo, Race Report

The Wausau 24 is kind of a big deal in the Midwest. Let's just put it this way, there were nearly 500 people participating in this event in one racing category or another. I would be racing the 12 Hour Solo category, while fellow DBD member Jason "Big Buff" Buffington would pound through 24 hours on a single speed. I would live in his shadow through this event. I've raced a bike for 30 hours before, but it wasn't a mountain bike and I wasn't on trails. I gave up trying to figure out how he or anyone else could do it. I'd stick to worrying about my 12 hours on the bike, it was all I needed to worry about.

I brought two bikes to the event. One being the El M. Ti and the other, the super sweet Spearfish 1. I would ride the Spearfish as I knew from past experience (2007) that the course was rough, but did not contain a ton of climbing. The El Mariachi would serve as my "back up" bike. It's hard to consider either of these rigs as  "back up", but I can't ride two bikes at the same time.

Immediately, I knew the full suspension 29'er was the right bike for the course as it soaked up the roots and rocks with a buttery smoothness. "Stay consistent on your lap times and stay smart", was what I thought as I moved through the first lap. I knew if I executed the plan I would have a good day. However, the field was full of talent, so a top 5 was the goal I had tucked away in the recesses of my mind.

LeMans start

As I approached the gnarliest climb on the course for the 2nd lap I saw fellow DBD member and training partner Jason Buffington powering up the hill as if it were a speed bump. I was happy, because this meant Big Buff and I might be able to ride together for a while, which always makes the miles a little easier. I know he's strong, but hey, he only has one gear. I was sure I'd be able to keep up. The top of the climb known as Ho Chi Min Trail is strewn with soccer sized boulders. These wheel benders are everywhere, but a rider with an eye for the "good line" can make it through unscathed. I entered the field out of the saddle and with a good head of speed. Half way through, riding on top of the rocks I felt the rear wheel slip in between two boulders as if pulled by an unseen force. I heard the all too familiar scrape of rubber on rock and quickly made a mental note to "watch out for side wall scrapes". Not 30 seconds past before I noticed the bouncy feeling of a rear tire losing precious air. "NO, NOT AGAIN, NOT NOW!!". It was true, a flat tire. And, not just a flat tire, but a cut in the side wall, the tire was toasted! I could see the Stan's solution doing it's best to solve the problem, but rarely have I seen the stuff actually work in the field. The tire was flat! I hit it with a CO2 and proceeded to ride another mile while the rim made it's inevitable trip to the ground. Soon I was riding with my weight over the handle bar, hoping against hope that I could make it to my pit area which loomed ahead on the trail some 4 miles away. I could no longer risk damaging the rim so I stopped and whipped out my small emergency pump. Ferociously I blasted air into the tire making progress, only to lose it in the next few minutes. Ultimately, I had a choice to make, run for the pits or auger in on the side of the trail and do a FULL ON repair job to the tire, then tube it. I chose to run for it. I rode the smooth sections on the flat tire and ran the rough stuff pushing the bike, but it was taking a long time to make it "home". Finally, I saw my Salsa canopy through the trees. Once in the pit I slowed my heart rate and methodically went to work on solving the problem. I would do a complete tire swap rather than grabbing the El Mariachi and taking off, the full suspension was just too good on this trail. I figured the time delay would be worth it in the long run if I stuck with the smooth tracking Spearfish. Approximately 5-10 minutes later I was out of my pit and making forward progress once again. I needed some "hot" laps and I needed them now. Although I was careful not to ride over my head while playing the "catch up" game I still rode with intensity. It wasn't until about the 6th lap that I started recognizing riders I had been with before the "incident". I was back in the game!

Big Buff and Eki ready to get started.

As the laps wore on I wondered how my friend Buff was doing. Amy, my wife and pit crew for the day let me know that he was doing fine about 15 minutes ahead of me. Knowing Buff like I do told me that I wouldn't be seeing him until I came to check on him in the morning, he's just too strong to be caught. I sent him some positive thoughts and went back to my own private battle. I told myself that my season this year has been about playing catch up. I'd caught up before, I'd do it again. I knew I was back in the game, but I wanted to back into the RACE! A pause at my pit for a new camel back and a quick update from Amy reminded me that if I stayed focused I just might come out of this thing with a good day. I began to turn consistent laps and ride with purpose, I was chasing hard.

Night time began to fall and so did my energy. I was hitting that place of deep fatigue that is hard to explain. It's that place that can only be understood by someone else who's been there and then it's not really talked about, but shared through a knowing look into the eyes. I glanced at my dust blackened legs and wondered if there was any muscle left in those quads or if I was just riding on bones. My heart was in charge now, not my head. I promised myself I'd show character and fight the 'good fight'. I needed to keep the demons down and the only thing that seemed to work was this mantra over and over, "You're strong, You're strong..." I literally said those two words out loud at least 200 times while I tried to hold my pace.

Battered and broken I inched my way up a loose gravel climb on my 11th of 12 laps, determined not to get off and push my bike. A faster moving rider was approaching from behind, it was a familiar sound. Then, I heard the chipper voice of a female who had not yet experienced the kind of pain I was currently in. This voice, in a lifting tone, sang words of encouragement to me, "Dude! You're Killing It! Keep it up..." as she moved past. I glanced at my gps and noted that I was going 2 mph. I chuckled to myself as a young college age girl, appearing as if she was primped for a night out to dinner (she was very clean, I was not) moved through me like a pro cyclist moves through a club rider. I wanted to shout after her, "Do you know what I've been through?!" Instead, I wished her and her team well and put my chin back down on my handle bar, in search of the top of the climb.

Jason completed 22 laps!

The final lap. I knew I would only be able to complete 12 laps as I would finish shortly after 10:00 p.m.. Honestly, I wasn't too heart broken that I would miss out on lap 13. I was beat, my hands were devolved claws, the rock that was in my shoe from the first lap had carved various holes in my foot, my left knee cap was killing me, my right shoulder was also killing me from riding into a hole in Duluth, caused by the flood. I just wanted to be done! Almost there, I rode past my empty pit area which told me I had about 2 blocks to the finish. My clock on the gps said it was 10:02 p.m., but would that be the same as the timing clock? I arrived to the finishing chute to a lot of clapping and cheering. I appreciated the kindness, but I was leery of riding through the finishing chute. If it wasn't after 10:00 p.m. on the official clock I'd be obligated to do another lap, I didn't want that. I slammed on my breaks 10 yards from the finish, clipped out and turned to the spectators, "Is it past the time?", I yelled. Confused looks came back at me from all but one man who seemed to look right into me. I heard his voice stand out from the others, "Yes, it's past the time, you can go in there", my eyes met his and he smiled. Maybe he'd been where I was at that point, on a different day, at a different event ... I think he had.

Buff and Eki relax awaiting the awards ceremony.

I heard the comforting voice of Amy telling me "Good Job!" She snapped a picture and I asked her to hold what had become an extension of my body, a filthy Salsa Spearfish. We made are way to a lonely folding chair that sat in the back ground of the post 12 hour race party. That chair was the only place I wanted to be at that time.

Sitting in my own filth I stared into space, I could still feel myself move through the turns, rise over the bumps, shifting my weight all over the bike, causing it to move as fast as I could. I thought about the fight I'd been through, the fight my good friend was still waging. I thought about how I had given it my all. Just then Amy said that it would be really awesome if I made it onto the podium. I told her that it would be, but it didn't matter, because I had left it all out there, I couldn't have gone any faster. Whatever place I ended up in, I was happy. I had tried my hardest. I didn't need to see the results, not yet anyway. I just wanted to put my bike on the car, get cleaned up, and go out to eat with my wife. I needed a break from the roots and rocks.

The next morning I'd head back to the venue to take down the rest of my pit area and watch Big Buff finish the 24 hour event. He took it all like the champion he is as he cracked jokes with me. He shook off the fatigue and hardship like he was  shaking off the cold from a winter day after walking into a warm kitchen. I marveled at his toughness. Jason Buffington won the single speed 24 hour solo and took 3rd in the overall.

3rd Place is all right with me.

As for my finish, I found out that morning at that venue while waiting for the conclusion of the event. It turns out I had clawed my way not only back into the mix, but all the way onto the podium finishing 3rd place overall in the 12 hour solo division. I'm not sure I was ever "Killing It!", but it was a nice reward for not giving up.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Need a Break from Riding? Do This.

Sometimes "real life" stuff just has to be done. Houses need to be maintained, cars need attention, appointments need to be kept. It can't ALL be about riding the bike. And, I don't care how much you love biking, admit it, sometimes it just feels good to take a break from it. Too much of one thing can never be good...or so I'm told.

This past weekend only had one ride for me and it was at a leisurly pace with it's only purpose to hear the story of adventure that my training partner Farrow recently embarked on. We laughed, rode as slowly as possible, we laughed some more, and eventually parted ways with our usual good bye of "Never Change, You're Special". I thought to myself, "these are some of the best rides of the summer".

So, with riding taking a back seat, here's what my weekend consisted of.

  • A meet up with some friends from the Minneapolis area for some good brew and general good times. (Thanks R and E! Sorry about the Jerseylicious seen at Tycoons.)
  • A five hour battle with my deck, as I stained it in blazing heat. NOT FUN!!
  • A slow walk on the shore of Lake Superior with my wife Amy, who treated me to some ice cream...Mmmmm!
  • A Duluth Huskies game with my Dad in the very stadium I played my high school ball.

Sometimes it's o.k. to let the bikes "hang" in the garage, they'll be there waiting for you when you get back, I promise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

36 Seconds

My minimalist pit.

Green Bay, Wisconsin hosts the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series' Stump Farm 100 each year. This is one of my favorite mountain bike courses of all the WEMS races. It's a fast, twisty, turn filled network of smooth single track. Lower the air pressure and let 'er rip, that's the motto at the S.F.


I never want to miss the Stump Farm race and this year was no different. In fact, on my list of races for the year that's pinned above my desk at work, there's an asterisk next to this race. That asterisk means I'll be there. I went minimalist this year as the weather looked favorable. I had no plans to stop in my pit area, so I took it back to basics, opting to set up my pit with one lawn chair, a cooler, and a Cub Foods bag with water bottles in it hanging out of a tree. I would fore go the elaborate set up that often comes with serious racing. I've used both methods and they both have their advantages. My thinking this year was that the minimalist set up is less enticing to stop at, therefore more riding takes place.


Standing at the start line I told a few of the boys that all I wanted was an uneventful race, no mishaps. A string of bad luck racing this year has left me feeling a bit, well...unlucky. So, if that meant ratcheting back the pace a bit in order to keep the bike and myself safe, that's what I was going to do. However, once the dust gets flyin' that's never the case and not long after they said "GO" I was going FULL GAS!! "Easy, be careful", I kept saying to myself as I gained more and more faith in my "hook up" through the turns. Soon, I trusted my Schwalbe Racing Ralphs completely and was really leaning through the turns, trying hard to stay off the brakes. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was riding with some pretty fast guys. I wanted to move up, but it wasn't that easy, everyone around me was going just as fast as I was.

I decided after an hour and a half of a frantic pace that I needed to settle down, but one Rich Lytle was riding with me and he didn't seem too interested in settling in or maybe that was his "settled in". All I know is that keeping up with Rich was taking a toll on me. Now, I've raced Rich in more races than I can remember, but I've never seen him ride like this. It looked like he was born to ride this course. "God he's smooth", "How is he cornering that fast?", "Is he even getting tired?", were all questions and thoughts that kept rolling around in my head. For some reason I thought he'd wear down so I stayed with him, thinking I'd pull away from him once the pace took it's toll. The pace didn't take it's toll, this was just the way Rich was going to ride the full 101 miles. I was in trouble.


My position in the race changed back and forth throughout the early afternoon as the laps and miles wore on. Our pace was dead even, but I must tell you that I felt I was riding harder than I normally would have, because of Rich. In a strange way it was inspiring to watch a guy ride that consistently for that long. I wanted to match that effort.

The start of the 6th lap marked the half way point. I made a decision to end this dual once and for all. I would ATTACK. I crested a small climb while moving next to my physical clone (Rich) and went over the top with an acceleration. I stayed on the gas for about 10 straight minutes until I was certain he was gone for good. Once alone, I began to settle into a more manageable, yet hard pace for the remainder of the 6th lap. "Out of sight, out of mind", I told myself as I contemplated how he would be giving up on chasing me now that I was long gone. This 6th lap effort took a large chunk out of me and as I began the 7th lap and 70th mile of the race I realized that this "attack" I had done may not have been the smartest racing move of my life. I was riding SLOW now and I was tired! In fact, I was so tired that I began to seriously consider stopping at my pit upon the completion of this lap for a "break".

Those legs looked even dirtier in real life.


I struggled through the remainder of the 7th and 8th laps and experienced some seriously dark times. I was very negative. "You're sooooooo FAT" was one of my prevailing thoughts. You get the idea. It wasn't pretty. Then, he showed up again, #6 (Rich's series plate number). "Are you kidding me? Who is this guy? Game over, I can't keep up to him any more, he deserves it, he can have it.", were the new thoughts in my head. I watched him float past me, make a light hearted comment, and pedal out of my life. I tried to yell some encouraging words to him, but I doubt he even heard them.

I had fallen off the pace and was back in the pack now (at least that's what I figured). Now, I would try to minimize the damage, hold my position, and get through the race unscathed. But, a strange thing began to happen, things started to feel better. My body began to change, I had a jump in my pedal stroke, I had a better attitude, the end was near, I was riding harder, I was riding smoother, I was RACING again!


2 laps to go! I was at the one mile marker of the 9th lap when I saw Rich flash past a different portion of the course than I was at. I quickly looked at the time on my gps, telling myself to get a time estimate of how far ahead of me he was. I'd check the time again when I crossed the point where I had seen him, then gauge how far ahead he really was. Could I catch him? I lifted my pace through a long piece of single track before I hit the double track I had seen him on. Almost 6 minutes ahead of me. Could I close down 6 minutes in a 50 minute lap? I decided I would give it everything I had to find out. A gel pack and a large pull off my water bottle and I got down to business. It felt good to be back in the fight.

Little by little I inched my way back into the race, taking huge risks on big sweeping downhill double track turns. "Wait, there's Randy Wegener, the series leader up ahead. He must have blown while riding off the front of the race.", I told myself. Then, it wasn't long before I saw Ron Knutowski, who I tried to move past with some speed just to make sure he wouldn't try to come with me - he didn't, which was nice. I was alone again, but keeping the pressure on. I continued to pass team riders and what I figured were 60 mile racers, none of them were as dirty as I was, so I assumed they were in different race categories.

A black kit was riding ahead of me in one of the most difficult sections of the race around the 8 mile marker of the lap. I knew Rich had a black kit or at least a dark colored one, I needed to see the bike to be sure. Then, I got a glimpse of his super sweet Specialized S-Works, IT WAS HIM!  Now, I needed to be smart. I didn't want to announce my presence as I knew he'd come with me if I tried to pass. I also knew he'd have the strength left to do it. Rich is a competitor and he wasn't going to give me his position for free. We popped out of the single track with me quietly on his rear wheel. "He doesn't know you're here", I thought as I watched him grab a long pull from his water bottle while we rolled down the 1/4 mile gravel road stretch, I did the same. "I need to hit him hard so he feels there's nothing he can do about the move" was the only strategy I could think of. I didn't want to race him through the single track as I felt he looked better than me throughout the day while we road trail. My plan was set. I tucked my bottle away, took a deep breath, shifted up a gear, and stood up while swinging out to the right. Five hard pedal strokes, then into the hardest rhythm I could manage for 1 full minute or at least to the single track. I stole a glance over my shoulder before I entered the final mile of trail and I saw my fiercest competitor out of the saddle and digging for me. I needed to PIN the single track in order to stay clear. "No mistakes, no mistakes", was my mantra as I railed the corners while begging for the finish line. One more glance back after leaving the trail confirmed that I had formed a big enough gap that I would come in ahead of him and into 3rd place. I had started the 90th mile and tenth lap in 6th place and finished it in 3rd place. What a race! Rich and I shook hands as soon as he crossed the finish line and I thought "Rich is definitely One of the Good Guys".



A lot can happen in 36 seconds.

For more, check this out

Rich got my best on this day. 3rd place Overall. I was tired!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Chequamegon 100 Brings Out My Inner Brat

The Chequamegon 100 is a quintessential endurance mountain bike race. The course is the stuff all mountain bike races should be made of, twisty, flowy, picturesque single track. Wait...there is a catch, each rider must navigate a seriously complex network of trails, including hundreds of intersections where decisions must be made in a split second in order to confirm that one is in fact on course and heading the right direction. Yes, the course is "marked", but not in the typical fashion (i.e. signs). The Cheq 100 is marked with spray painted arrows on the ground. So, imagine riding as fast as you can through tight, twisty single track, watching for arrows on the ground. To put it succinctly, they're easy to miss. My tiny brain had a lot going on as I negotiated all of these variables.

This race is close to Duluth, so my good friend and training partner Charlie Farrow got up super early and headed to Cable, Wisonsin. Great conversation and good laughs on the trip down had me feeling that I was in for a good day.

All "kitted" up and ready to head to the starting line for the rider's meeting I became concerned when I saw Charlie pulled over by the side of the road (the rider's meeting involved a short ride to the starting line), palms up - exposed to the sky - looking quite perplexed. I had to worry about me at this point, so I pushed on past him, figuring that every day in Charlie's life is an adventure. I was certain he'd find his way through whatever plagued him at this moment.

The rider meeting was chock full of information, most of which I couldn't hear or couldn't understand. I wasn't worried, I figured I'd just follow the guy in front of me anyway. What a mistake! Note to people who don't think the rider meetings are all that important - THEY ARE!!!

Tim Krueger of Salsa Cycles shouted "GO" and we were underway. I was feeling good about my start and the pace was easy to handle. I rode right at the front in order to stay out of trouble, which was one wise move I made on the day, as I heard a nasty crash happen on the gravel right behind me. "Hope every one's o.k., glad I wasn't in that", I thought. I hit the single track in about 5th position and again the pace was easy to handle. Granted, I was a little "twitchy" in the trail after hammering down the gravel for 3 miles, but I knew the nerves would settle and they did. Soon I felt smooth and under control and I felt like I wanted to start moving up. I asked permission to pass a few guys and in some cases I was afforded an opportunity to pass by a wide spot in the trail. Things were going very well until my front wheel started feeling a little sluggish, not responding to my commands. "Whatever, I'm sure it's fine", I thought. But, the feeling was getting worse, then I felt the tire roll on the rim as I leaned into a corner. Twenty minutes into the race and my front tire was going down - what a BUMMER! It had to be dealt with so I pulled to the side, ripped off my camel back and dug out a CO2. I blasted a canister into the tire, capped the valve and jumped back on. I only lost about 5 positions,  but the leaders had escaped. I wasn't worried, I knew we were all in for a long day. I just didn't know how long...

The tire seemed to be holding while I was hooked up with my Kansas partner, Sean Mailen. We joked and laughed through the trail while we rode with a mild intensity. I liked how matched we were and I felt I could ride "all day" with him. Time wore on, creating silence between us as we began to focus on the skills needed to ride efficiently and stay on course. At times we would drift apart, but circumstances always brought us back together. "Sean and I are going to finish this thing together", I thought. However, that thought disappeared when I saw my partner dismount at an aid station and crack a beer. "Good idea", flashed through my mind, but I wanted to finish this thing in under 9 hours, so a beer for me would have to wait for the end.

The hours passed and I rode alone for the majority of them. Navigation rested solely on my shoulders, but I wasn't too worried as I had the course "loaded into my gps". All I had to do was follow along with the screen on my handle bars. Ahhh, but it proved to be much more complicated than that as the course began to twist and criss cross itself, confusing not only me, but the little man who lives in my gps.

Cruising comfortable a few minutes behind the lead group and a significant chunk ahead of the field I rode ALONE. I was in that "no mans land", chasing and running at the same time. Then, it happened. I was riding a beautiful piece of single track called the Makwa Trail when I crossed the famous Birkebeiner ski trail. After crossing the "Birkie" the guy in my gps totally freaked out, causing me to look down to see what his problem was. "OFF COURSE" was the message on the screen. I hadn't seen this before (this was the first time I'd used my gps in this way). So, I too kind of freaked out, pulling a U-turn, I returned to the "Birkie" and immediately noticed orange markers on the trail which was part of the marking system. Being the intelligent person that I am, I changed direction and started following the markers down the ski trail. The little man confirmed for me that all was right with the world by saying, "COURSE FOUND" and even offered a pleasant little chirping sound. I dropped the hammer and started trading punches with the infamous "rollers" of the "Birkie". "Man, I'm doin' great", I thought as no one was behind me. "Soon, I should be seeing the guys who 'pop' off the front group". Instead I saw a resting place (building) for the cross country skiers who visit the trail in the winter. Thing is, I had already been past this building a long time ago. I wasted valuable time trying to figure out where things went wrong or if they were wrong at all. Finally, I found my way back to an aid station where the kind lady informed me, "you weren't supposed to be on the Birkie, not until later in the race".

I have been angry before, but the rage that began to boil up inside was even scary to me. It was ALL MY FAULT. I made a snap decision without thinking it through, without inspecting the trail ahead for the tire tracks of the lead group, I ruined my race! As I rode away from the aid station it all began to make sense. The "little man" politely letting me know I was back on course made sense, I was back on course, just the wrong portion of the course!! I really wanted to have a good race. This is Salsa's race, I ride for Salsa ... you get it. All of that was gone now. I was so far back that all hope was lost in getting back to where I was. My little excursion lasted approximately one and a half hours. The damage was done, not to mention I wasted a ton of energy blasting through unnecessary miles. Back to the rage. I processed this mistake as I entered the Makwa trail for the second time. I began to mutter some bad words to myself as the weight of the situation took hold. The rain was falling heavy on me now and my mood was falling faster. Soon, my mutterings had evolved into a full on melt down. I began to scream obscenities at the trees. My throat shook as I pushed my vocal power into an area it has never been. Running on pure adrenaline the anger had produced I was taking risks in the wet trail that I shouldn't have. Eventually, I settled and tried to grasp some control over my emotions and further evaluate my situation. It was then that I noticed my legs for the first time and noticed that they felt really tired. I had been feeling fine at mile 50 when my mistake took me on the scenic route, but now that the chemicals released into my body from a temper tantrum any 5 year old would have marveled at had subsided, I was tapped. By the way, my apologies to any riders who may have been near me when these moments transpired, my friend Jay Barre from the Slender Fungus being one of them. Sorry you had to see/hear my 'dark side'.

I looked into the future and saw bigger events on the horizon, events that will really test me. I decided to consider this a training ride for those rides that lay before me. I regained focus, pushed in some calories and got back to business. Mission DBD, FINISH THIS RACE!

The remainder of the race was uneventful and involved many, many miles of solo riding, good for the head, good for the soul I figured.

I began to wonder if I would just ride single track for the rest of my life as the end never seemed to come, but finally a gravel road ahead. I was out of the woods and entering the tiny berg of Cable, Wi. The finish line was just ahead.

Tim Krueger met at the finish and asked me if I wanted to do the "Cheq. 120" next year. "Sure", I said, "I know the way".

Thanks to Salsa Cycles for putting on such a great race, specifically, Tim Krueger, Joe Meiser, and Ryan Horkey (who "blew up" the race, taking 4th overall!!! Way to go buddy!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Troubled Times, They Have Come!

A line of storms looms over Duluth's bay.
Duluth, MN is in a spot of trouble right now. We have been hit with over 9" of rain in 24 hours. The ground can't hold it anymore. Therefore, the water and Mother Nature are now kicking our ASS!

Our thoughts go out to the homes and businesses that are damaged and the lives that are turned upside down right now.

Hang in there, the sun will come back. I know it!

A culvert under the driveway where I work. No kids allowed in the swimming hole today.

A little creek I cross on my commute to work every day.

Same creek pictured above. Merritt Creek.

A big climb/descent on my commute to and from work.

Same road as pic above. I'd say it's ruined.

At this point I figured out why I had to go past a road closed sign.
The previous pics were what I saw when I rounded this corner. Yikes!

A close up of the water just running through the woods. This isn't a stream or creek, just water!

Amy standing over Merritt Creek which eventually flows to my place of work.
Typically, this is a small stream.